I’ve heard of and seen news bits on the Catania archbishop, Salvatore Gristina, banning godparents in his diocese. Not the first time this has happened in Italy, as mentioned and commented upon here last year. I went to the NCReg to see what the anti-Francis/conservative take on this might be.
Patti Armstrong’s column cites a few experts, and one strain seems to be people, especially parents need catechesis. That may well be true, but I think the state of the sacramental life for casual Catholics goes way past the need for book-learning.
The problem for many Christians these days is not something missing in the mind, but an activation of the will. A fraction of Catholics have recognized the possibilities of that friendship with Jesus and a connection with a faith community that strives to live out that friendship. Without the engagement of the will and one’s desire for union with God, all the classroom and catechism stuff will be like seed on rocky ground. Wind and rain will blow and wash it away.
Does a godparent ban help anything? Maybe it lets the parish priest off the hook if the mafia or the grandmother comes looking for blood. If it’s a mafia thing, easy solution: just have the local criminals appoint a watchperson for the infant. Write up a contract, if need be in invisible ink.
As for the Church and the importance of the role, maybe a parish decides that godparenting is a ministry worth some investment. Choose couples who will pray for children, give them spiritual gifts, attend their celebrations of First Eucharist, First Penance, and Confirmation. People who might take them to confession on a Saturday afternoon or on a pilgrimage on a day off. And if an aunt or uncle who don’t practice faith insist on a role, let them attend the baptism prep class, come to the sacramental celebration, and give as many gifts and spend as much time with the child as they wish. Is a line hand-written into a parish registry all that important?
Archbishop Gristina and others might have good intentions. But I think it’s a potentially lazy way out. In some places I’ve served, I think parents and their children would be better served by lay people in charge of the sacramental process. Priests already have a lot on their plates. Let’s take more time and better opportunities to form parents and godparents.